When the media reported that Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote is planning to lay more than 15,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable around Nigeria, someone asked me why such an investment now. I responded, the future.
The world of disruptive innovation is here with us. Internet is transitioning to a new market called Internet of Things and sometimes known as Internet of Everything (IoE).
Cisco, which is at the cutting edge of new innovations, define IoE as ways of bringing together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before - turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals and countries.
While many perceive IoE as technology for tomorrow, it is estimated that corporate profits attributable to this technology will top $613 billion in 2013 and more than 14.4 trillion of net value in the next decade.
Findings from a recent survey by Cisco show that Global executives anticipate job growth and wage increases as a result of IoE, along with improvements in information security.
Nearly half of executives surveyed in the study think IoE will lead to higher wages at their companies, and one-third believe it will drive higher employment levels in their firms. In addition, 50 per cent feel IoE will make their information more secure.
The study also noted that technology infrastructure and tools are essential, but it’s the innovative application of technology that will separate winners from losers in the IoE Economy. Winners will be companies that successfully apply technology to improve the “people” and “process” elements of their business.
Just how will IoE help create jobs and help improve livelihood in Kenya? Through IoE we can improve the quality of life as well as the competitiveness of our country.
With the Information Communication Technology infrastructure we have, and abundant human resource, Kenya should quickly achieve parity with the most developed countries or even outpace them.
For example, we need to enable an interface between company registry office and citizens. Today, one has to physically visit the office to register a company whereas in most countries you can do this online.
Similarly, at the Judiciary one does not need to go up to the courts to determine that their case will be mentioned or not. With mobile phones everywhere, we can interlink everything to make life easier.
We can manage for example our transport sector better if we gave virtual addresses to all public service vehicles.
Extend the addressing to all seats and monitor the speed from back offices such that we can disable the vehicle if it is endangering the lives of people. Such will greatly improve operational efficiency, better customer care, greater employee productivity and more importantly generate data that will help us make better decisions for future management of the same.
Already the application of this new and disruptive technology is already in use here. Kenya Revenue Authority uses Radio-frequency identification (RFID) which is often seen as a prerequisite for the Internet of Things to track transit goods across the country.
If all objects and people in daily life were equipped with identifiers, they could be managed and inventoried by computers. It is done by tagging things and or people using such technologies as near field communication, digital watermarking as well as bar codes.
Other benefits of IoE are improved revenue collection for both the investor and the government, less corruption and optimal use of resources leading to employment creation especially for back end jobs. Although tagging of people may be critical to their security, it will likely face difficulties, especially from Christians fearing Revelation chapter 13 prophesies around the number 666.
One other key concern regarding the addressability of things is the availability of address codes.
Most countries including Kenya have begun to migrate their current internet protocol to a new one called Internet protocol version six popularly known by its acronym IPV6 that has extremely large address space.
Internet of Things will bring disruptions as we begin its implementation. It will face challenges around privacy but its benefits will eventually outweigh its costs. We may never have any option but to adopt much of its applications including the security of the people.
Dr Ndemo is a former Information PS and a lecturer at University of Nairobi